The college experience is in many cases four of the most important years in the lives of our children in that it will shape their future personal and professional direction. High school prospects will enjoy a potentially strong position in the recruiting process that, if exercised with careful planning and organization, will increase the chances of achieving their top college choice.
Student-athletes bring a unique quality to the table when it comes to college admissions. They offer a special talent that in many ways can improve the visibility of the institution and raise the level of popularity among future attendees. College officials understand this quality and, in many cases, offer strong support to student-athletes both in admissions and financial aid.
The college recruiting process can be a daunting effort if it is not well planned and executed with organization and enthusiasm from start to finish. Below are some tips on how to best prepare for the college quest to help maximize the student-athletes' best chances in gaining admission to their top college choice.
Gathering information is critical to the successful organization of any worthy project. Building an information profile for the college quest can begin as early as the ninth grade as a fun family hobby and increasingly grow to a highly organized, disciplined project by the end of the junior year.
Maintain individual e-files on your favorite college programs that include information about the teams and their progress along with information about academic offerings. These files will begin to grow and so will your knowledge about college athletics and the outstanding opportunity that awaits you.
As one can imagine, college coaches receive hundreds of personal profiles annually from prospects. It is important to streamline your portfolio into a comprehensive and efficient format that stands above the rest. Collegiate coaches will begin to prioritize their recruiting file based on the initial cover letter and profile. These documents will usually be placed in one of three files of importance:
"A" file: Blue chip, top-tier recruits
"B" file: Second-tier recruits; still have excellent opportunity
"C" file: Little chance of impact; admissions risks
Keep your profile simple, neat, and professionally formatted. Make the job of initial evaluation easy for the college coach by highlighting pertinent information (level of competition, honors and awards, skills, academic testing information, etc.). Maintain a copy of your generic profile to send to the majority of schools and then personalize 5-10 profiles to be sent to your top schools with additional information that will help you gain admission and/or scholarship attention (family legacy, connection to coach indirectly through club coach, etc.). Commit to making a strong impression with a professional approach in all written correspondence. Remember, your goal is to move your profile to the "A" contact folder.
The video is another means of developing first impressions, and trust me when I say that first impressions are remembered. Typically, a coach will roughly evaluate a recruit within the first two minutes of the video. They need to! Along with the hundreds of profiles, they are also bombarded with hundreds of videos.
Introduction: Tell coaches who you are, where you are from, and what your specific goals are. Show confidence and project a mature image (20 seconds).
As I noted above, the coach will probably have a good indication of your talent within the first two minutes of your video. Highlight outstanding moments and technical mastery of your talent. This will grab the coach's attention.
Show 5-7 minutes of your finest competitions along with training highlights if relevant to your sport.
Finish your video with 15 seconds of "contact information," including club/high school coach and direct phone number(s).
Please note: Individual sports do differ, and it is important to communicate with the college coaches about their requirements for DVD footage.
The profile and video will initially define you in the eyes of the college coach. These tools should be crisp, clean, and to the point. Give the coach every reason to filter your information into the active recruit file.
Developing Your Plan
A knowledgeable consumer will have a clear edge in the pursuit of the attainment of any worthy product. I believe that the same holds true in the college search, and I encourage families to make every effort and commitment to organize pertinent information regarding this process and to execute well-designed plans.
Develop timelines that will target general events in the beginning of the college search (e.g., unofficial visits, competitions) but will become more specific (e.g., communication with coaches, contacts, official visits) as time progresses. This will take families step-by-step through a very challenging process with great skill and confidence and it will increase the chances of "hitting targets" throughout the process.
Build Your Team
A productive family effort will not only be well planned and impeccably executed, it should also involve a team approach that may consist of the following players: Parents, prospect, high school/club coach, college advisor, guidance counselor, and personal mentor. Each team player will have a specific role to play in order to ensure the prospect's best chances. Advance goals should be set with clarity and purpose that complement the organizational structure of the recruiting process. The well-prepared approach will, in the end, have the best chance of achieving success.
Suggested Team Areas of Responsibility:
Development of target calendar
Research (schools, majors, athletic programs, rankings)
Video and profile development
Planned communication and contact log
Scheduling standardized testing
Organizing communication "role play"
Researching college profiles and determining potential compatibility
By selecting the team approach, the responsibilities are equally distributed to the area experts. All assignments should be clearly spelled out, and communication between team members should be frequent and consistent. This will help streamline the college quest and assist in avoiding any confusion that could contribute to unclear thinking, misdirection, and potentially poor choices.
Execute the Plan
Developing a strong plan for success is good, while following through on the objectives can be something all together different. Similar to a club coach who develops a constructive and well-thought-out cycle of training for his athletes that hopefully will result in a successful season, the college quest requires the same discipline and persistence in approach, commitment, and enthusiasm.
Not only should there be a willingness by each member of the team to execute their individual role in this process, there needs to be a commitment to working in concert as a collective group that has only one objective in mind: Help the student-athlete find the right fit.
The team should communicate often and meet regularly to identify progress in every related area and make adjustments if necessary to the plan. You will begin to see the groundwork that you diligently laid out months prior (timelines, detailed plans, and organizational structure) will begin to develop clarity during this phase. It becomes a simple matter of checking off the list one by one.
Effective communication between the family and the collegiate coach can be critical to the final choice in the college search. If your mission is clear, communication becomes the vehicle to move with definite purpose in your chosen direction. On the other hand, ill-prepared communication can cause confusion and misdirection. Your ship moves but with a weak rudder.
Communication should be initiated early on by the family and by the prospect. Although college coaches have clear restrictions regarding when and where they may contact prospects, a prospect may call or e-mail a coach prior to the end of the junior year of high school, with few exceptions. An initial letter of introduction is a great way to begin, but it is very important to follow this up by e-mail and by phone. The prospect who practices persistence with respect will grab the college coach's attention.
Communication is especially important in the areas of gaining athletic scholarship and participating as a member of the team. Cultivating a strong and genuine relationship with coaches, based on honesty and sincerity, is critical to building trusting relationships. Provide the college coach with everything he or she requests (profile, DVD, transcripts) in a timely manner. This will make the evaluation of athletic talent and academic credentials an easy task for the coach, and they will develop a level of appreciation that could be the "tie breaker" when it comes down to support for the prospect.
The college recruiting process is both exciting and potentially daunting. It requires a disciplined and yet flexible approach, especially when timelines get tight and situations become challenging. Developing and executing plans are crucial to the success of any worthy goal and the college recruiting process is no different from preparation for a championship competition. Communication (both offering and receiving) is vital, and the working participants will build a mutually strong and respectful relationship in order to maximize communication as a tool to achieve desired results.
The bottom line is finding the right fit for our children as they embark on an important and meaningful process that will have great effect on their future careers and personal direction.